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Kids' Films Full of Misogyny, Scantily Clad Female Characters

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A new study shows that movies aimed at kids are delivering a steady diet of vile sexist stereotypes to the most impressionable young minds--even in a supposed new golden era for animated and family fare.  There's a paucity of female characters to begin with, and when they do appear they have often secondary roles, not to mention unrealistically tiny waists and other extreme appearance enhancements, the study found.

"Zero progress has been made in what is specifically aimed at kids," actress Geena Davis said in a statement. Davis’s project, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, commissioned the study from USC's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.

"What children see affects their attitudes toward male and female roles in society. And, as they watch the same shows and movies repeatedly, negative stereotypes are imprinted over and over again,” Davis said.

The study ( pdf link) by Stacy L. Smith, Ph.D. and Marc Choueiti of the Annenberg School reviewed over 100 high-grossing 2006-2009-released “family” films rated anywhere from G to PG-13. Films included in the sample included recent installments of the “Harry Potter” and “High School Musical” franchises as well as animated fare like “Wall-E,” “Happy Feet” and “Ratatouille.”

Their findings? There was a genuine scarcity of speaking female characters, human, animated or fantastical--30% compared to 70% male characters. That’s one to two and a half. Even worse were stereotypes relating to the characters' appearance: “a higher percentage of females than males (24% vs. 4%) are shown in sexy, tight, or alluring attire. Females are more likely than their male counterparts to be physically attractive (14% vs. 3.6%) and portrayed with some exposed skin between the mid chest and upper thigh regions (18.5% vs.5.6%),” the authors wrote.

Smith and Choueiti also studied the gender divide behind the camera--producers, directors, writers and animators.  Unsurprisingly, they found a correlation between what’s happening behind the scenes and what the audience eventually sees: “Our findings in this study and others show that when females occupy leadership positions behind the camera the number of roles for girls/women on screen increases significantly,” they wrote.

Therefore the study’s authors and Davis recommend hiring more women as part of a solution to the problem--a problem with real-life implications, Davis reminded reporters. Research has shown that young men and women can quickly absorb social messages in the movies they watch.

"We know that if girls watch female characters in unstereotyped activities, it heighten

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